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Dec. 16, 2013 - Shadow - Through Madness


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Hi everyone,


This is a short story that I recently wrote. This is only the second short story I have written, so I am open to any and all feedback that might help me improve (i.e. what works, what doesn't work, what's unclear, if anything is boring, the structure of the story, etc.)!

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I found Kadrian an interesting character. His death wish seemed believable, and the reasons for it made his shift to helping the boy feel believable too. The writing generally flows well - far better than my second ever attempt at a story.


Things you might want to work on:


You've clearly worked out the background of the character and his setting in detail, but we don't need as much of that detail as you give in this story. Details of how his previous plan was foiled are irrelevant to this particular story, and stuff setting them out slows it down - this was particularly noticeable in the safehouse scene.


It might be better to introduce the Master of Truth earlier, to personalise the conflict and raise the tension. As it is, we're nearly two thirds of the way through the story before the antagonist turns up, and that reduces the impact of his presence. In fact, a lack of tension was one of my biggest problems with the story. Kadrian's aim is to get the child out of the city, and his opponents aren't actually trying to stop him doing that. In fact, there's no sign that anyone other than those dead guards cares about the boy, so there's no-one trying to stop Kadrian fulfilling his aim. I'd recommend putting their aims in clearer opposition - either Kadrian's trying to escape and they're trying to catch him, or they're chasing the boy and Kadrian's trying to save him.
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Welcome to Reading Excuses!


I should say first that I missed that this was a short story, and so the ending threw me.  Some of the comments I made were me thinking about what comes next, and not that this would be the end of the story as well.  You do have a lot of character development for a short story, but I agree with andyk on the amount of backstory.  Also, for the beginning of a novel, I was completely fine with the Master of Truth coming in when he did, but thinking about it as a short story, it's definitely too late in the story arc.  Same thing with the boy.  If this is as far as the story goes, we need to know Kadrian's objectives.


Overall:  an interesting story, and it captured my interest.  With the worldbuilding, it feels more like an epilogue to a longer story, though, as if we should know these characters already (and hence the Master of Truth coming in late).  This throws the story off slightly.  The mention of the shadow wielders in particular made me think there was more coming that would explain the magic of the world.

You also have a lack of description (and I get accused of this as well).  I can tell you have the city, environs, and people thought out in your head, but there isn't much in the story to help me visualize it.


Some other notes:

pg 1: ceremonially

--not sure this is the correct usage.  Maybe "he nestled the dagger with ceremony?"


There are some run-on sentences, especially near the beginning:

first line: "Kadrian sank down and backed into where the stack of crates stood against the brick wall and spied through the narrow space."

pg 9:"Kadrian looked over at the boy with his arms stretched up above his head making the small couch look huge."


pg 6: "something felt different. But oddly, everything was just as he remembered it. Abruptly he realized what had changed. Tarril’s

house was exactly as it was before. He wasn't."

--We don't know the character enough to emphasize with him that something has changed.  Thus you're just telling us that he changed, and not how.  Show us how he changed.


pg 9: "excited sneer"

isn't that sort of contradictory?


pg 10 top: I had to read this paragraph several times to make sense of it.  I think Manny is driving the cart they are in?  But you don't say this directly, and I'm left wondering why you've brought up Manny and what he is doing.


pages 10-12 have a lack of description.  Kadrian and Jasper are hiding in a cart, but I don't know how.  Are they hiding under goods, or under a tarp, or behind something?  What does Kadrian peek over?

bottom of pg 12:  or is he not hiding at all?  It seems like the guard can see him easily.


Pg 14:  Ah.  I thought this was the beginning of a story, not a short story, so the ending caught me off guard.  It makes the rest of it make more sense, though.
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For a second story ever, you are doing well. I wish my first few attempts looked that good. I really liked the description of the death at the end. I thought you handled that part well.


Andyk and Mandamon were very right in the respect of the backstory in the short format. Backstory is always a tricky thing to deal with, especially in SF/F bc there is a lot to get in. You can still keep some of it, but I would watch the big blocks of backstory, especially the parts that are just inside the character's head. If you can pepper that into conversations or spread it out into one/two line thoughts, here and there it would probably serve you better. 


A couple little things on word usage that I don't think the others mentioned:


-Watch out for redundant phrases:

           p.1: He did and his companions would soon follow behind. There is no need to write behind. Saying that they followed him, already implies that they are behind.

           p.2 He would once again be with his wife and son again. Choose to use either once again or the again at the end, but not both.


-Also watch out for words/phrases like just then, suddenly, abruptly, etc. I counted at least 3 uses of abruptly and I think there might have been a few I missed. In almost every case you can eliminate these words and keep the exact same meaning in your sentence. Reserve these words for when you really need them-- at times where you cannot say what you are trying to say without them. If you do need them, try not to repeat the same word too often. Otherwise you might abruptly pull your reader out of the story a little bit ;)

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Hi Goat,


Thanks for your comments.


I had never noticed how often I use the words "abruptly" and "suddenly" and now that you pointed it out, it sticks out like a sore thumb. So, thanks for that :). That, and my tendency for redundancies... I am definitely going to look out for these things in revisions and in my other writings!

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